Coach Bobby Lamb has embraced a unique path and a singular mission–to make a difference in others’ lives
It’s a Thursday morning, nine days before Christmas, and Bobby Lamb is sitting in his car.
There’s no game plan to figure out, no Xs and Os to diagram, no scouting report to scour. He won’t lead a team onto the field for another 800 days, give or take, but he’s busy all the same. Building. Casting a vision. Planning. Because that’s what he does.
He’s a football coach.
Robert Emory Lamb (but to about everyone he’s just “Bobby”) can barely remember a time when he wasn’t part of a team, wasn’t on a football field, wasn’t hearing the clamor of crashing helmets and cheering crowds.
He first learned the game from his dad. Ray Lamb was the kind of person whose primary mission was molding and shaping people’s lives for the better. There are a lot of ways to do it—being a teacher or a preacher, for example. Coaching football was Ray Lamb’s way. Like most coaches in small towns in the 1960s and 1970s, he wore a lot of hats. He was the head football coach at Commerce High School in Commerce, Georgia—and the athletic director, PE teacher and, during the summer, director of the town’s recreation department.
So you could say Bobby Lamb got into football as a little kid— in grammar school, maybe. On the other hand, you could say he was born into it. You wouldn’t be wrong either way.
Which is why sitting in a parking lot, talking on the phone about football before a day full of meetings where he’ll talk about football, isn’t that strange at all. No, there isn’t a game next week or next month or even next year. Doesn’t matter.
This is where the journey—a coach’s journey—has taken him. “I’m really excited about my path.”
"One of the best things I ever saw was(my dad’s) former players coming back to visit him after they graduated. You could see the joy in his face. He made a difference in their lives. That’s what I’ve always wanted to do. And I wanted to do that through the game of football."
— Bobby Lamb
Head Coach of Anderson University Trojan Football
A Coach’s Journey
Bobby Lamb is the first football coach in the Trojans’ long and proud athletic history. He’s currently building a staff, helping find financial support for the program’s launch, monitoring construction of football facilities on campus and fostering relationships that will aid in recruiting his first team—everything necessary to be ready for the Trojans’ inaugural game in 2024.
In other words, his is a much different job than the one most of his peers have.
“When you look at career paths, most of your college coaches are stair steppers,” Coach Lamb said. “It’s two years here, four there. I took a different route.”
That’s not to say one way is any better, mind you.
Take, for example, University of Florida head football coach Billy Napier, who recently took over a premiere college football program during an unprecedented coaching carousel in 2021. Notre Dame, Louisiana State, Southern California and Oklahoma—all college football bluebloods— changed coaches this year.
Napier’s résumé is enough to make your head spin. He started as a graduate assistant at Clemson in 2003. Coached quarterbacks at South Carolina State in 2005. Went back to Clemson in 2006. Alabama in 2011. Colorado State in 2012. Florida State in 2013. Back to Alabama. Then Arizona State. Then, finally, the head coaching job at Louisiana-Lafayette until Florida brought him on board last December.
Coach Lamb knows that path well, not only because he understands the roller coaster ride of being a college football coach, but because Billy Napier is both his friend and, in some ways, his understudy. Napier played quarterback at Furman from 1999-2002. His position coach for the first three years— and his head coach for his senior season—was Bobby Lamb.
To say Coach Lamb is proud of his protégé is an understatement. “Anytime one of your former players can reach those heights, you always feel very proud of that,” he said. But that doesn’t mean it’s the kind of coaching career Coach Lamb wanted.
“I was very lucky to be in two places for a long time,” he said. “I was at Furman for 14 years as an assistant coach before I got the head job. I just felt comfortable raising my family in one place for all those years. My daughter was at the same school system for 12 years, and my son was there 10 years. It’s something that I felt was important.”
From the Upstate to the Peach State
When Coach Lamb arrived on the campus of Furman University in 1982, he was already a champion. The year before, he’d been named the Atlanta Journal-Constitution’s best quarterback in Georgia Class AA after helping Commerce High School win a state championship.
He started at quarterback for Furman during his junior and senior seasons. In those days, the Paladins played in NCAA Division I-AA, and it was common for the universities in Division I-A, looking for an easy win, to pad their schedule with small-school programs (like Furman.) The big state schools were very rarely disappointed in the results.
They got to host what was essentially a low-risk exhibition, get their end-of-bench guys some playing time and celebrate a blowout.
It’s not unlike what you see in college football today, except for one big difference: nowadays FCS universities (the modern version of I-AA) often beat their FBS opponents (formerly I-A.) That’s what makes Coach Lamb’s experience as a college quarterback unique. During his four years, Furman was routinely David to some of college football’s Goliaths. The Paladins beat the University of South Carolina, Georgia Tech and North Carolina State (twice.) That second win against NC State came during Coach Lamb’s senior year, when Furman made it all the way to the I-AA national championship game. At the conclusion of the season, he was named the Southern Conference Player of the Year.
"Coach Lamb has tremendous experience in building and sustaining football programs, recruiting at a high level and leading young men both on and off the field of play, all while integrating Christ into all he does. He brings a well-developed approach to football and we are blessed to name him as the first head football coach at Anderson University."
— Dr. Bert Epting
Vice President for Trojan Athletics
The following year, Coach Lamb traded his helmet for a headset. He was an assistant coach as Furman became a national power—the Paladins won a national championship in 1988—and took over as head coach in 2002.
“Life takes you in a lot of different directions as God creates opportunities and opens doors,” Coach Lamb said. Of course, not every opportunity is the right opportunity. As his coaching stock rose, Coach Lamb had to decide what trajectory his career would take. Having been around the game all his life, he decided against the nomadic existence so many of his contemporaries experienced.
“I turned down a lot of opportunities because I didn’t want to live a life like that,” he said. He chose to build foundations rather than embrace instability. That’s why, in 2011, he took on the challenge of starting a program from scratch.
Mercer University had been without a football team for 70 years when it chose Coach Lamb to revive the program. His first year there, in 2013, the Bears defied the odds by winning 10 games—an NCAA record for the most wins by a collegiate program in its first season of competition.
Laying a Foundation. Again.
Coach Lamb’s path—and the door God opened on its next chapter—has led him to Anderson University, where he’s tasked with launching yet another college football program. That’s one of the reasons it’s an exciting time for Trojan Athletics, said Dr. Bert Epting, AU’s vice president for athletics.
“Coach Lamb has tremendous experience in building and sustaining football programs, recruiting at a high level and leading young men both on and off the field of play, all while integrating Christ into all he does. He brings a well-developed approach to football and we are blessed to name him as the first head football coach at Anderson University,” Dr. Epting said.
While clearly honored at the trust placed in him—and excited about the challenge—it’s just the next part of Coach Lamb’s journey. The one that he was born into. The one that led to a high school championship and player-of-the-year awards. The one that led to upset wins over bigger college programs and his first experience on the sidelines. The one that led to launching one program and to the challenge of doing it again. And, yes, the one that led to him sitting in a car on a cold December morning, remembering each step along the way.
But when you think about it, one person’s journey isn’t about them alone. It’s about all the other journeys they get to be a part of. That’s the enduring lesson about all of this—one that Bobby Lamb learned from his first coach.
“One of the best things I ever saw was (my dad’s) former players coming back to visit him after they graduated.” Coach Lamb said. “You could see the joy in his face. He made a difference in their lives. That’s what I’ve always wanted to do. And I wanted to do that through the game of football.”